By Shan Song – Features Correspondent for Nottingham and Midlands
It was well known that Chinese President Xi Jinping wanted some fish and chips and a nice pint on his recent state visit to the UK. When he went to the pub with David Cameron, you could see he really enjoyed his chips with a drink.
Fish & chips has taken over China by storm, so it was of no surprise the President of China wanted to taste some from the country it was invented in. There are fish and chips stores throughout Beijing, either in the centre of town, or in the main expat area by Sanlitun. Prices can be rather high, comparatively, and given it’s in Beijing, there’s still much of a gap between “what Beijing thinks is fish & chips” and, well, “the real thing”.
Nottingham – A good place to try British food
The city of Nottingham is home to a large number of students from China. Obviously, they must all know about fish and chips, and for me, it was just a matter of when I’d taste my first one. Fortunately, the restaurant I picked — George’s Kitchen — was an ideal choice, and at that, an award-winning choice. Their motto is ‘a good and proper place’ and ‘British food with a twist’ and I couldn’t agree more. In fact the restaurant is the epitome of good quality, no nonsense and satisfying ‘grub’ as they say.
George’s have been in the business of “fish-and-chips”-ing since the 1980s. Unlike the traditional diner, they actually serve it in different variations. For example, for the Finest Scottish Haddock, you can choose it as it is , or add red wine and honey vinegar. You can also choose, for a slightly more expensive price, the daily catch, which is fresh every day (every care is taken to make sure the catch remains fresh). In fact, for the Chinese, this might just be the option of choice, since we love our fresh catches (especially around maritime areas such as Tianjin and Guangzhou) day in, day out!
In the restaurant, on the wooden tables, it does feel like it is a trip to the sea. The restaurant is located in a building of historical note, as it is a Grade II listed building situated on Queen Street. For most of us from China, it’s good to step back in time (a little) away from our ultra-modern CBDs and taste local food the way it was always made.
Fish and chips my end has always been a major favourite, and I am known to add a lot of lemon and, where possible, ketchup — lemon to the fish, ketchup to the chips. The portions they offer in supermarket restaurants in larger cities like London often turn out to be a disappointment, since they are only so big (and not so fresh), but at George’s, it can be as fresh and big as can satisfy you. My partner ordered the ‘Proper Dirty Double Burger’ which was topped up with melted gruyere cheese, she said it was the most satisfying burger she has ever tasted in the UK.
Fish and chips remains part of the British culture. The way as I see it, if even the Chinese President has time for this, then it must be something special. In Chinese there is a saying: once you enter a village, be sure to abide by its customs. As a commoner, and a Chinese now in the UK, while at the first go fish and chips was quite new to me, I have gotten used to it more and more. It is part of the UK culinary fabric — there as part of Britain as much as is the case with pubs. At George’s I felt that although the fish and chips stores in Beijing were adequate, that here in Britain, this was the original — the real deal. And there is only so much “realness” about fish and chips outside the UK before you’d want to come in and sample “the real” original.